This is a 2-horse race with a third nipping at their heels. All of these directors, for different reasons, were extremely impressive. There were also a couple of other directors who could have landed in this category. It was a deep, deep year for great directing.
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) – I will continue my broken-record-ness. Wes Anderson just keeps getting better and better and making movies. His last several films, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom and now The Grand Budapest Hotel have each taken another step up the ladder of brilliance. What I believe makes him so special is that his writing and directing aren’t separate. That is what he and the two horses he’s chasing this year have in common. They are not just directors (not that there’s anything wrong with that) they are also writers. And to be more specific, storytellers. Of all of these fine directors, Wes Anderson is the finest storyteller of them all. This won’t be his year, but as he keeps climbing that ladder it won’t be very long at all.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) – What an ambitious film. Written and directed like a stage play because, well, it is a stage play about a stage play. What cojones Iñárritu had to try this and pull it off. It’s remarkable. It is such a visual film but, as I wrote about Birdman back in November.
“I am thrilled that as the film industry continues to make movies more and more visually mind-blowing, that film makers like Alejandro González Iñárritu and Christopher Nolan aren’t sacrificing things like emotion, character development and good old-fashioned storytelling to do so.”
Richard Linklater (Boyhood) – Did someone say ambitious? Did someone say cojones? A-maz-ing. This is such a gutsy thing to attempt and the wisdom of Linklater (wily veteran filmmaker that he is) is that he knew that to pull this off it would have to be ultra-low budget. That’s the only way he could keep it going year after year. IFC made the low financial commitment (a little over $2MM) and Linklater was off and running. And with that tiny little budget he put together a film which I don’t believe will ever, EVER be replicated. And for that alone he might win an Oscar.
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) – Who is this guy? Well, he’s made 3 feature films in his entire career and they have been nominated for a total of 16 Oscar. Two were up for Best Picture (Foxcatcher should have made it 3 for 3). For two of them he was up for Best Director. Six of his actors were nominated including Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Best Actor win for Capote. This guy is the best director working right now that nobody has ever heard of. In Foxcatcher he slow-burned the crap out of that story until it exploded like a supernova. An emotionally-disturbed supernova.
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) – Up until now Tyldum has just made Norwegian movies but apparently they’re quite good. I wouldn’t know. They’re all in Norwegian and I can’t pronounce any of the actor’s names. That aside, he made a really excellent film in English that makes me wish he made more movies in English. He shows in The Imitation Game that he knows how to direct in any language. The pacing between timelines and the on-screen chemistry between not only Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley but the whole cast is really significant. His work doesn’t stand out among the others but that’s really a testament to how strong this field is this year. In a perfect world he’s out and Clint Eastwood is in. But it’s hard to fault the Academy for this nomination.
It will come down to Iñárritu and Linklater. Birdman is the better film but the monumental undertaking of Boyhood will have the Academy voters torn.
OSCAR WINNER: Richard Linklater
SELBY PICK: Richard Linklater
I love Iñárritu but there’s never been a movie like Boyhood and that credit goes directly to Richard Linklater.
We’re almost to the big night. I’ll give you my prediction for Best Picture tomorrow.